I am dealing with progress in my little town. We have had a large influx of new settlers here, some from different parts of the world, some from neighboring towns, some just temporarily – students, I mean. And with these new settlers the large companies have decided to set up their own flagship buildings. Some companies, though, have left. And one of them, our Marsh store in West Lafayette, has decided to close. There are other bigger box groceries in town. So, I suppose that was what drove our little Marsh store off the grid. We have Meijer, Walmart, Kroger-Payless, and even some smaller groceries that serve the university studentship. We won’t mention them, in case the business gods want them to leave as well.
Our little Marsh store was not a little one at all. It had all the amenities: the deli, the bakery, the flower shop, and, it had international items (like Chinese and English fare). It had a navigable footprint, we knew where to find things – and it wasn’t a long slog like with Walmart where you could easily get lost in it looking for vitamins or Coffee or canned meat.
When my family settled here in the early 90’s, the Marsh store was pretty much the only store in town, perhaps the Kroger one was also up. But Kroger had a large store and it was difficult to park in it. I had visions of being t-boned in their parking because someone didn’t look behind to see who was driving past. So Kroger, despite being a serviceable store, seemed a bit of a risk to me.
Marsh had friendly people, the greengrocers liked to say hello and helped when I couldn’t find the pine nuts for my recipe. The manager, who I just met a few months ago (he’d been there for years) had informed me then that they weren’t going out of business, they really are doing a profit and so the fear of them closing had dissipated. But that was then, the news, the cold hard news is that they are now being run off the grid of West Lafayette.
It is a difficult thing to see something that’s been there for decades and been the provider of your food and greens and alcohol since you started and made this place your own. My own, as it were. I know that another bigger, fancier store will come out and replace it. It will tear down the building and who knows what other ones attached, and it will be a mess for a while and then it will announce itself.
Maybe that is progress. But what progress really, for the manager who told me he was glad they weren’t closing because he is a couple of years away from retirement? Or the green grocers who have aged through the years, and still look as young as they were with just a bit of grey around the gills – where do they go? I know that they will be taken care of, at least, that is what I hope Marsh will do – give them a good retirement package. But the memories will go away.
Memories of Marsh you say? Well, we had friends who were the cashier, the ones who sold us our lotto tickets, the assistant manager who offered to keep an eye on my dog while I shopped, the friends we bumped into and regaled with news of our latest trips or retirements and so on. Where will they be next? I doubt that there will be a greater chance to see them again – where would they be? What do people do when their favorite store closes? Are the alternatives going to be ok? What will I miss most about Marsh?
I guess I will miss a few things about Marsh, besides what I have already said. I will miss their ample parking (mostly due to the fact that hardly anyone shopped there anymore) where I could actually sit and scroll through my newsfeed on Twitter in my parked car, or, where I would eat my Starbucks Danish before going in to shop. I will miss its accessibility. I will miss well, the past. I guess that is what I will miss. The past that includes my whole family shopping there and now the family has dwindled. So, perhaps that is what I will miss about Marsh. Those scenes in the past where Marsh figured in some way. Not greatly, but in a significant way.
Small towns are the thing of the past, though. Our town is eager to be part of the next technological super age. So, with that, let all small grocery stores beware. One can’t always stay the same, one must do what they can to matter to those who are around. Those who have patronized Marsh are in their later years, those who are more inclined to want to shop safely, to feel like there’s a warm place to go and feel like they belong. The youth of the town will go where they have access to Starbucks, to new-fangled foods, to every type of monster drink available. The rich will always go where the parking lot is paved and has no bad holes. The entrepreneurs will go where there are party stuff to celebrate openings and launches. And then where would these stores be that can’t have all for these demographical shoppers?
Perhaps that is what Marsh needed – and they tried to keep up, they tried to stock those things that only they would carry and not others. They installed U-scan devices, and made the store more spacious. But, too little too late.
I fear for those who will miss Marsh that they will completely be in a catatonic state when they enter a big box store. What of those tender hearts who really only wanted one item and then scurry back home to cherish it with their recipe?
I might be getting too maudlin, but I really really hate that Marsh is closing here. I know I’ll get over it. I shouldn’t fret, of course, because perhaps it is part of God’s plan. Yes, He has a plan even for Marsh stores. I don’t know what that would be, but in God’s Mind, these things are present. So for all Marsh aficionados, take heart. God’s in control. He will be happy to hear our fears and settle them in his Fatherly way.